Press Release provided by Anna Summersett on July 11, 2017
LawyerCentral.com, July 11, 2017 — TEXAS — FORT WORTH ? A Fort Worth man who was kicked in the face by a police officer outside of his home and then arrested for interfering with public duties has been acquitted by a Tarrant County jury.
Jurors deliberated more than an hour on Tuesday evening before finding the 32-year-old man not guilty of interference with public duties – a charge that could have sent him to jail for up to six months.
“We recognize that police are routinely placed in highly dangerous situations. However, this particular case highlights why police training is so important,” said defense attorney Letty Martinez, who tried the case with partner Benson Varghese. “Instead of taking time to get a search warrant, they skipped a step and entered my client’s home unlawfully, assaulting him in the process. Additionally, the officers chose not to wear department-issued body cameras, even though they were available.”
About 2:00 a.m. on September 29, 2015, five members of the Fort Worth Police Department’s Gang Unit surrounded the man’s house in the 2900 block of Azle Avenue on the city’s north side. They were looking for the man’s half- brother, who had a warrant out for his arrest.
Instead of knocking on the door, the officers – who were dressed in all black with black Gang Unit vests – picked up a bicycle and threw it across the yard to create a noise. The homeowner ran out into the driveway and, as he did, he noticed armed shadowy figures run up his porch and forcibly enter his home.
The man, who lived with his mother and disabled aunt, ran back towards his house. When he got to the porch, he was kicked in the face, forced to the ground and put in handcuffs. He was later charged with interference with public duties.
The man testified that, until he was put in handcuffs, he did not know the men in black were police. He lived in a high-crime area and believed he was being robbed. He testified that he was concerned for his family inside, which included his half-brother who was arrested in the living room without incident. The brother did not live at the residence.
The jury heard that none of the police were wearing body cameras. They also heard that, in order for police to enter the home of a third party, the law requires that they obtain a search warrant in the absence of consent or exigent circumstances.
Police agreed under cross-examination that there was sufficient time to obtain a search warrant. Therefore, no exigency existed.
“We continue to proudly support our local police agencies in the lawful execution of their public duties,” Varghese said. “Unfortunately, on this night, in this situation, the officers’ actions were not justified. We are grateful the jury carefully considered all of the evidence and reached the proper verdict.”